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The Business of Meetings

Sep 29, 2020

It is an honor and a pleasure to be speaking to Roger Dow today. Roger is the president and CEO of U.S. Travel. He has had an amazing career, and in today’s conversation, he gives us some insight into what’s happening on Capitol Hill regarding our industry. He also talks about the unique way he got into the industry, the effect the pandemic has had on it, and what he predicts for its future. It’s a very interesting conversation, and we know you’re going to enjoy it!

Roger Dow’s Bio

Roger Dow is president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, the Washington, D.C.-based organization representing all segments of travel in America. Their mission is to increase travel to and within the United States. 

As the leading travel industry advocate, Dow and his team regularly meet with the executive branch and congressional leaders to advance policies that benefit the broader travel industry. His efforts have resulted in major legislative victories, including his instrumental role in establishing and renewing Brand USA, the highly effective national travel and tourism promotion program. Dow and U.S. Travel are also leaders of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition, which promotes and defends the value of face-to-face business meetings, trade shows, conferences, and conventions.

Starting as a lifeguard

Roger stumbled into the meetings and events industry a long time ago, back when he was in college. He had completed his lifeguard training and was looking for work. He could not find a job as a lifeguard until he eventually approached a new hotel that was opening, called the Marriott. They employed him, and he spent the next three summers working at their pool as a lifeguard. 

After college

After college, Roger struggled to find a job. The general manager of the Marriott suggested that he stay with the hotel group as he had done a good job at the pool, and the company was growing. 

Exponential growth

When Roger signed up with Marriott, they had about twelve hotels. He hoped that someday they would have 100 hotels, and they now have 7,000!

The first loyalty program

In 1983, Roger headed up marketing and he started the first loyalty program in the hotel business.

Global sales

After about ten years, Roger moved on to head up global sales for Marriott. He loved being part of the sales profession and Marriott had about 10,000 salespeople around the world, selling everything from meetings to conventions, to global travel, to corporate travel and global accounts, and they all worked with Roger.

Roger learned a lot from the army

Roger got drafted to the US Army during the Vietnam war. He spent a year in Vietnam and got decorated with a bronze medal. He learned a lot from the military.

One of the greatest lessons as a leader

Roger learned one of his greatest lessons as a leader in the military. He has learned that you don’t tell people what to do. You do it with them.

Making the transition to U.S. Travel

After 34 years with Marriott, Roger was thinking about retiring. The head of what was then the Travel Industry Association, which is now U.S. Travel, was also retiring. A head-hunter told Roger that in doing that job, he could have an impact and change an industry because someone needed to pull the industry, as a whole, together. 

Fifteen years on

Although he only intended to do the job for five years, Roger is still with U.S. Travel fifteen years later!


The industry has experienced many different crises over the years. What we’re going through now as an industry, however, is probably ten times more than we have ever gone through in any previous crisis, including the Great Depression.

Travel is everywhere

Travel is everywhere, and it affects millions of people. Most people don’t realize that the travel industry is 83% small businesses.

Out of every crisis comes opportunity

Out of every crisis comes opportunity. People are filling the void left by those who have gone out of business during the pandemic, so now there is a new set of businesses that did not exist before.

Health and safety

Roger predicts that every hotel and convention center is going to have a Health and Safety Officer.

Some predictions

Roger predicts that we are going to see biometrics and contact list systems for checking in and out of hotels coming out faster than they have been doing. There will also be a lot of changes in protocols and how we do business.

Capitol Hill

Roger has been working on Capitol Hill to get support for our industry and he has had amazing results. 

The time to fix things

Roger has been working hard to fix things for people in the destination marketing organizations who got left out of the CARES Act. He feels that this is the time for politicians to come together to do whatever will be good for the people and to prevent the travel industry from going under.


Virtual meetings have many advantages and can accommodate vast numbers of people around the world. Roger believes that face-to-face meetings are critical, however, and they will be extended going forward. 

Going back to normal

Roger is optimistic about the future. He predicts that everything will go back to normal a lot sooner than most people think.

Links and resources:

About Roger